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Japan Competes With China in ASEAN Role


Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, third from left, join hands with leaders of the Mekong region nations.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, third from left, join hands with leaders of the Mekong region nations.

Japan is becoming more active in Southeast Asia.

The island nation has increased investment to support economic development in the area. Japan is doing this as China has increased its economic involvement with the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, known as ASEAN.

Japan is also becoming more involved in security issues, especially ones related to the South China Sea. Territorial disputes, Japanese officials say, need to be settled by the rule of law and without the use of force.

Earlier this month, Japan announced a program to improve infrastructure in Southeast Asia over the next three years. The program will cost $6.8 billion. It will involve the Greater Mekong region, an area that includes parts of Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand.

Japan’s latest program for the Mekong River area follows an assistance package in 2013 that provided 2 trillion yen to ASEAN countries.

Japan also supported an ASEAN program aimed at improving ties between members with a $100 million fund.

Thitinan Pongsudhirak is a political expert from Thailand. He said China’s influence has placed Japan's programs of assistance and support under pressure. He said Japan does not plan to stop long-term investments on the mainland of Southeast Asia.

An employee works inside a textile mill in Yiwu, Zhejiang province.

An employee works inside a textile mill in Yiwu, Zhejiang province.

In March, China hosted the Lancang-Mekong cooperation meeting in Hainan province. Experts consider the meeting the latest effort by China to improve relations with Greater Mekong countries.

Japan and China are also competing in finance and banking in the area.

Japan has supported the Asian Development Bank for a long time. The bank has provided development funds for infrastructure in the area.

However, Japan, like the United States and Canada, did not join the new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). China started the AIIB last year.

In a speech earlier this month, Japan’s Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida commented on security issues in the area. Japan is concerned over territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

Japan has increased support at sea for Vietnam and the Philippines. Both countries, along with Malaysia and Indonesia, have claims that conflict with China in the South China Sea. China claims almost all of the area as its sovereign territory.

In this Feb. 25, 2014 file photo taken by surveillance planes and released May 15 by the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs, a Chinese vessel, top center, is used to expand structures and land on the Johnson Reef.

In this Feb. 25, 2014 file photo taken by surveillance planes and released May 15 by the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs, a Chinese vessel, top center, is used to expand structures and land on the Johnson Reef.

Kishida said recently “peace and stability” were needed for economic prosperity in the area. The foreign minister called for the establishment of a code of conduct. The aim is to settle territorial disputes over the South China Sea.

I’m Jonathan Evans.

Ron Corben wrote this story for VOA News. Jim Dresbach adapted this story for Learning English and VOANews.com. Mario Ritter was the editor.

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Words in This Story

yenn. the basic unit of money of Japan

provincen. any one of the large parts that some countries are divided into

prosperityn. the state of being successful

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